November 6, 2019
By Alan Berner

Mothers always say, “Don’t run with scissors.” But running with molten glass?
That’s how artist Etsuko Ichikawa discovered the concept of drawing with it.
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Mothers always say, “Don’t run with scissors.” But running with molten glass?

That’s how artist Etsuko Ichikawa discovered the concept of drawing with it.

It was at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood. She was an assistant to Dale Chihuly and the situation required moving a large, molten “gather,” or dollop of glass, at the end of the metal pipe about 30-feet — and quickly.

It began to drip and created a pattern on the concrete floor.

And so her artistic concept was born in 2004.

Immediately she did tests with at least 20 different art papers.

Ichikawa started with 140-pound, thin paper, but the glass would make holes in it, and the drawings were very fragile.

She discovered what works best is a really dense, French-milled 300-pound paper called Lanaquarelle. It’s 100% cotton rag, extremely smooth and silky to the touch.

To create her work, Ichikawa will stand over the paper, as she did recently at Pratt Fine Arts in Seattle’s Central Area.

Next are broad, quick sweeping movements with the glass.

Body language determines the drawing, and she usually moves to jazz music in the studio. It’s both production and performance.

“It’s abstract,” she says. “In some ways it’s similar to dripping paint.”

The molten glass leaves the furnace at more than 2,100-degrees. The paper is but a few steps away.

Though paper will ignite around Fahrenheit 451, Ichikawa’s paper will briefly flame up but will not burn through.

The black lines left behind are sinuous, elegant and surprising. The works are called pyrographs, born of fire.

“I love the process,” Ichikawa says. “I feel the gesture. It’s fluid, and fire is mesmerizing.”

The drawings reflect her Japanese heritage. She was born in Tokyo and has lived in the U.S. since arriving in 1993. Shortly after that, she began working for Chihuly as a studio assistant, a total of eight years.

Known as a multimedia artist, she’s received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation. On Thursday — First Thursday — she’ll show a film at Winston Wächter Fine Art gallery in Seattle.

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